Sunday Essay: The Grad Experience

by Makayla Miles

It all started around 4 p.m., an hour before Rainier Beach High School’s graduation ceremony. After struggling to find parking, I found my way to the back of Memorial Stadium where the rest of the class of 2016 congregated. A clutter of students in blue gowns gathered in white and orange stoles, joining teachers and administrators wearing black gowns.  I said hi to all my friends, fixed a couple of wardrobe malfunctions, and snapped a few pictures. I saw people I hadn’t seen in ages.  

Then chaos occurred right before the ceremony got underway, teachers yelled for students to come get their name cards, students spelled out every letter in their name to ensure it appeared on the card correctly. Rain then started to fall.  

During the downpour, one student gave an impromptu speech about how he never thought we would make it to the point we had come to that day, but we were indeed about to graduate. His words put a smile on everyone’s faces. After the teachers finished handing out name cards, we proceeded to form a line and the rain stopped. The honor cords arrived at the last minute. An honor cord is a cord with tassels at the end, and given to students who have accomplished an outstanding academic achievement during the year.  A giant smile appeared on my face when I found out I had received a one. Someone then yelled at us to get in a more organized line. Students had to rearrange themselves a couple of times so teachers stood in the front, and everyone got to walk beside the person of their choosing. Then it was time to walk.  

I walked down the stairs of Memorial Stadium very carefully in my heels,and as I did, I realized I  had “made it”. I overcame four years of high school to make it to this day.  When my friend squeezed my hand as we begin walking down the stairs, I knew I wasn’t the only person feeling this way. It felt surreal to hear and see all the people in the stands cheering us on. As I walked, some of my friends in the stands called out my name. I almost fell waving back to them.  After getting over the initial shock of seeing all the people in the stands yelling and shouting praise, I took my seat.

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Post graduation posing. Photo courtesy of Makayla Miles

I listened to speech after speech recalling our high school years, as I reminisced. There were also some great music performances between the talking. All of the valedictorians were recognized. The ceremony became a lot more interesting when rain suddenly started to pour again with everyone doing their best to stay dry. The principal then passed out awards and read all of graduates names as we walked on the stage to accept our diplomas — or the things are diplomas are supposed to go in, anyway.

It was a typical graduation, no different from any other, though I do believe the Vikings had more fun than any other school. There were no tears, just laughs, some dancing, and some Snapchat.

Once the ceremony ended, I got hugs from schoolmates I will probably never see again, but in this super connected world, it’s possibly we’ll run across each other down the road. I also saw people I hadn’t seen in years, like my middle school principal, my old chemistry teacher, and classmates from middle school, who surprised me by remembering my name. Seeing all of them had to be one of my favorite parts of graduation. I took a lot of great pictures that I may show my grandkids one day.

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“Dabbin” on graduation day. Photo Courtesy of Makayla Miles

Then, like any other day, it was over, just like that. Of course there were parties afterwards, but graduation day is as good as any to celebrate, and I got to eat a lot of cake.

The graduates of 2016 will go on to become doctors, writers, singers, business owners, engineers, and anything else they wish to be.

While graduation is hailed as an important event, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not. High school graduation is just one milestone, and there are many more to come.

Featured image by Wiki Common

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